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November 19, 2018

And the winner is...

In the past year, we considered a number of small-ish crossovers, but nothing quite worked out. The failure of Volvo XC40 stung the most — I had big hopes for that car. But it wasn't particularly premium for the money; seats were surprisingly uncomfortable; the no-knob HVAC controls on the touchpad drove the last nail into that coffin. The Subaru Crosstrek (XV) came very close, and I think I would've gotten one if the 6th gear was reasonably tall. Eventually, I had no choice, but shop a size up: above 4000 lbs cut-off, and more than 180" long. Once there, the 2019 Acura RDX and BMW X3 quickly came on top, and I went with the latter because Acura's infotainment is just too weird.

My 2010 Wrangler was the best car I ever owned and almost completely reliable for the 9 years (2 days in the shop total; no break-downs aside from a flat battery once). I test-drove the JL and it is basically the same thing, only improved over JK everywhere they changed. However, the headroom is just as lacking as before. In the JK, I modified the seat rails to lower the seat, but this time around I just don't have the energy. And frankly, I wanted to try something different.

The 2019 X3 is oppressively large, but at least it has the headroom.

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November 06, 2018

Goodbye, Karlsson

I sold the Carlson and ferried it from Texas to the new owner in Iowa. What a fine flying machine this was. Unfortunately, it was a single-seater and I mostly use airplane for travel, so... The expense of rent is what did it in.

Pictured: the final photo of the Carlson, at an overnight stop. I forgot to take a picture when I handed the keys over.

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November 09, 2017

I want a premium small SUV

After the fiasco of the communicator, when Google even dropped Nexus 7, I started to realize that my tastes are abnormal, even in cars. I want a compact SUV that is not too big, but is real. Something that now-dead Suzuki Grand Vitara would be great. Here's a table:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat TrueDelta
2018 Wr.Rubicon 4010# 73.7" 164.3" 34.6' 66.61 32[6]
2018 Renegade 3532# 74.2" 166.6" 35.3' 18.4 [1] 29
2018 Crosstrek 3142# 71" 175.8" 35.4' 16.96 24
2018 RR Evoque 3865# 78.1" [a] 172.0" 38' ? -
2019 XC40 3629# 75.2" [c] 174.2" ? 16.8 (est.) -
2017 HR-V[3] 2888# 69.8" 169.1" 37.4' 17.14 6[7]
2017 CX-3 2959# 69.9" 168.3" 34.8' 15.37 -
2018 Countryman 3510# 71.7" 169.8" 37.4' 15.50 55[b]

For a comparison, here are some of the bigger SUVs, that also stratify:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat
2018 GLC 300 4M 4145# 74.4" 183.3" 38.7' 17.98
2019 BMW X3 4167# (-63) 74.4" (+0.3) 185.9" (+2.3) - 16.95 (15.96)
2017 GLE 350 4M 4751# 75.8" 189.1" 38.8' 17.08
2017 Jeep GC/WK2 4984# 76.5" 189.8" 37.1' 42.2
2019 RDX SH-AWD 4020# 74.8" 186.4" 39' 17 (est.)
2019 Lexus GX [4] 5130# 74.2" 192" 41.1'[2] 17.98

[1] With an optional 4.438 final ratio, C635 manual. Canceled for 2019.
[2] Specified as "radius". All others are "curb-to-curb".
[3] Manual only with FWD. AWD with CVT only.
[4] 16-18 mpg, 38" headroom.
[6] 106 for 2006, 80 for 2008, settles down thereafter.
[7] Likely not statistically significant.
[a] With mirrors folded.
[b] For 2011. Newer are better, but show 40s anyway.
[c] A Canadian 3-view drawing says 1863 mm or 73.4".

The slowest gear is only decent in real Jeeps, unsurprisingly. For a reference, the 2006 RAV4 2.4L+4sp auto had 12.13, and I found it unacceptable (that is to say, I've never been stuck because clearance of RAV4 wasn't great enough, but I have gotten stuck with a TQ stall). So, I'd like to have somewhere around 18..20 at least.

So far, Crosstrek looks like the winner, thanks to its modest dimensions (although it's long and has a long snout). Both Crosstrek and Renegade allow to combine a manual transmission with AWD. {Update: 2019 Renegade drops manual+AWD.} Supposedly the interior is much improved in the 2018 generation. The specified headroom is only 39.8", which is barely enough, but it works.

Renegade would be my choice, thanks to low gearing. But wife says the interior is trash. I am not sensitive to it, but she need good seats for her back.

Evoque is intriguing because it is almost the right size, and is modestly off-roadable. But it may be too wide, and has a small headroom. It uses the same 9-speed ZF auto found in Renegade and Pilot for the crawling gear. Also, a Ford 2.0L turbo -- not sure if I like that. {Alex says the Indians are putting a new engine into top trims of Evoque for 2018+.}

The upcoming XC40 is also intriguing, as long as they sell a model without the stupid glass roof.

HR-V and CX-3 are probably too small, although I like small. Fortunately, I don't need to agonize over their size because their offroadabiltiy is too poor. CCX-3 also loses with the headroom of 38.4" They are included for a reference only.

UPDATE: I saw an edifying video where the previous generation Crosstrek and Renegade work side-by-side in real life. It highlights the difference quite nicely. Both vehicles make it, but Crosstrek has to have the front bumper removed and runs with 2-inch lift. The Renegade is a Trailhawk model with the factory 3/4" lift. A certain lift is required on either one in order to sustain skid plates.

UPDATE 2018/02/20: Alex chimes in. Note the ground clearance. But then, XC40 has climate controls on the touchscreen, which is a problem.

UPDATE 2018/05/11: Alex posts a full review. The glass roof appears unfortunately standard (I looked at Volvo website, and the headroom has no option in the U.S. market, although it is an option in Europe; the deletion of the glass increases the headroom to 40.5"). Seats are heated but not cooled, a problem for wife, who likes those (every time I try them, they make me want to pee). The climate controls are on the touchpad, although they seem to work. On the upside, I loved the trash bin. A number of reviewers were militant about the double-toggle shifter, but I'm okay with that. The steering ratio seems a bit excessive.

UPDATE 2018/09/20: XC40 failed a test drive and is out of contention. In fact, there's no workable small premium SUV at all! I have to go a size up. (/spoilers)

UPDATE 2018/10/24: Writing under official TrueDelta byline, Michael Karesh relays the summary presented by Consumer Reports at Automotive Press Association meeting:

Volvo ranks last of all. We've also seen this in TrueDelta's data. Even in its third model year the XC90 has been far worse than average, and nearly the entire Volvo line now uses the same powertrains, infotainment systems, and other parts.

Looks like I made a good call. Also:

Audi, BMW and Mini continue to to better than other European brands. It is important to realize, though, that their scores are based on only the first 2.5 years or so of ownership. I've noticed in TrueDelta's data that European cars are now often reliable for four and even six years, but once older often lapse into moneypit status. Coincidentally, the standard warranties on these cars last for four years, and the CPO warranties last for six.

Well, it's only money.

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July 04, 2017

Harper's Ultimate Kneeboard

Not everyone does that, especially when flying VFR, but I use a kneeboard. Since I have trouble fitting into small airplanes often, I don't want a gigantic tri-fold. But a little clipboard is not enough either: I want AOPA prints and some other materials to be accessible, while writing on the top sheet. Not many products exist in this class, and I settled onto "Ultimate Kneeboard" by Harper. It has the necessary features, without going overboard.

I put 7 holes on all the materials, including the stack of the note paper. The picture is a bit deceptive in that I stopped running standardized navigation log. Left that for IFR. But I still put down all the necessary times, including tank times. Other things that are recorded include weather reports (again, with times), assigned frequences, and squack codes.

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April 22, 2017

Albuquerque Motor Trend Auto Show 2017

The 2017 was even less notable in terms of new cars than 2016, when at least Honda presented new Ridgeline. The new JL Wrangler is scheduled for 2018, as is the new Crostrek (although its platform leader, Impreza, was introduced for 2017). The car of the show is actually a Ford truck: F-250 King Ranch. It feels so comfortable. Sticker price is $64,000, more than a Mercedes C330 Coupe at $50k, also present in the show.

Toyota reskinned GT86, and now I cannot even fit into it, as they added a bump in the roof where my head needs to be.

Lincoln showed Continental, and it mostly served to highlight how uncompetitive their previous flagship was, the MKZ. It's still not quite there, but props for trying. Maybe one year LMC will release a true luxury car. BTW, my wife could not unlock the passenger door of Conti from the inside until I rescued her. It's like the designers spent so much effort thinking if they could that they forgot to ask if they should (use a button as sole door release).

Oh, and I took a little drive in FIAT 124 Spyder, the "Fiata". The engine sound on it is just hilarious, purposely omnipresent to remind about itself. The auto transmission is well sorted, as promised.

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April 09, 2017

The kids are allright

As reported by the former Newspaper of Record:

Using a survey that has monitored the attitudes of high school seniors for nearly 40 years, the sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter find that the proportion of young people holding egalitarian views about gender relationships rose steadily from 1977 to the mid-1990s but has fallen since. In 1994, only 42 percent of high school seniors agreed that the best family was one where the man was the main income earner and the woman took care of the home. But in 2014, 58 percent of seniors said they preferred that arrangement. In 1994, fewer than 30 percent of high school seniors thought "the husband should make all the important decisions in the family.” By 2014, nearly 40 percent subscribed to that premise.

Once the article started making rounds, the poor author had to backpedal furiously. New data is coming! We will poll until the correct response is received.

Meanwhile, redpilling continues.

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March 12, 2017

2016 Lexus ES

Autojournos salivated for years for a downfall of Lexus, and pronounced it "resting on its laurels" with Hyundai (now Genesis) always about to beat it, but never succeeding. Well, here it comes: Lexus ES is now cheaply made and falls apart after only 12,954 miles.

Power/Volume button's cap popped off.

Dash sags and allows to look under the windshield.

Stitching of the steering wheel cuts painfully into my index finger.

Someone could try to argue that 13k miles is a hard duty as a rental. But I only grant it in case of the volume control button that a renter could pop, but not the dash and not the stitching.

Lexus is in trouble.

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October 16, 2016

The Ratchet

I remember that during the last government shutdown, there was some wailing about FAA reducing the number of control towers at airports. Think of the children!! There was even a petition circulating about keeping those at Albuquerque Double Eagle (KAEG) and Santa Fe (KSAF). Although it happens over and over again, it never ceases to astonish me that public never seem to realize that traffic control facilities are not necessary at the most airports. We only have them through the sheer power of the ratchet.

The tower at Double Eagle was established in 2006 because Eclipse Aviation was going to have a large increase in traffic by its customers visiting the training facility. A few years later, Eclipse collapsed, the abandoned building of the said facility is an white elephant, but the tower continues operations and consumes money.

Today it's Santa Fe's turn. In a letter to all concerned, the airport management informs that:

Beginning December 15, 2016, Santa Fe Municipal Airport will be served by 70-seat commercial aircraft. As a result, the TSA regulations will require the following additional security measures [...].

Airlines come and go, the next one may decide to fly an EMB-145 again. Do you think the security measures are going to be reverted when that happens? Don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question.

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October 05, 2016

On gliders

I dabbed in gliders recently, and here's is a couple of observations that I don't see mentioned elsehwere.

It is often said that a winch launch in a glider is the closest thing to a cat shot that a civilian can experience. It turned not quite true. Although I haven't flown off a carrier, I would imagine that a catapult launch is notable for its acceleration. In addition, in modern aircraft the pilot does not even control it until clear of the boat: you can see that he holds special handles on the sides of the cockpit frame. A winch launch, by contrast, is not violent at all.

Where it gets exciting is the need to make prompt, even aggressive, yet correct and measured action if things go wrong.[1] The control has to be correct when things go well too: rotation not too hard, and at the right moment, keeping the speed right in relation of the winch pull, release after going horizontal, and such. You aren't taking a relaxing ride while holding the grab handles.

But there is something that makes a glider pilot work like a fighter pilot, and that is flying in a crowd. A few games exist that make the player to look in directions other than straight ahead. They do it to be more realistic. Fighter pilots have to track positions of other aircraft, while maneuvering, and this is more difficult than it sounds. But pilots of civilian aircraft rarely engage into such activities. Most flying is done with a care for safe separation, and I knew people who would become nervous if another airplane approached closer than 500 ft. For a glider pilot, a several wingspan separation is routine, when gliders start hogging one thermal. And they have to keep head on a swivel just like figher jocks tangling it north of Nellis. Of course I would not want to mention it to them.

[1] See the safety video by British Gliding Association, Part 1. Here are related quotes:

  • Cartwheel before takeoff: "... how quickly and catastrophically things can go completely out of hand. ... Releasing the cable after the wing has dropped will not stop a cartwheel that has already begun. ... Release before the wing touches the ground. "
  • Stall and flick roll on rotation: " Maintain a shallow climb until adequate speed is seen, with continuous acceleration. Ensure that transition ... is controlled and progressive. "
  • Launch failure and low altitude: "Minimizing the reaction time is crucial. You need to anticipate a power loss ... and be ready to lower the nose without delay."
  • Later spin: " ... accidents of this type were the most common fatal winch accident. ... it is imperative to adopt a correct recovery attitude. Wait until a glider has attained an approach speed [before maneuvering]. "

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September 22, 2016

Da Capo

In my insatiable thirst for untranslated VN apps, I eventually reachad for Da Capo at Amazon. It was popular enough in its day to get an anime adaptation.

And I learned quickly why it was refered by "Da Crapo" by Momotato in 2005 (page not online anymore). The art takes the worst of Kanon. Characters are borderline acceptable on each own, but they present an eclectic salad with no theme or reason togeher. The main heroine is apparently the sister. I only ran down Mako's path before I had enough. Here's a spoiler to give a sample of the plot: Mako is troubled by romantic attentions of a lesbian and recruits our hero to be her pretend boyfriend in order to shield herself. Naturally, they fall in love in the process... Which again, could be accepted, but the writing was unbearably poor. Things just happen with no development whatsoever. Okay, almost. The dude helps the poor thing to select a present for her brother once. Hardly enough for romantic feelings to develop.

It's not quite the worst $10 ever spent, because I picked a few kanji along the way, but it's quite close.

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September 03, 2016

Instapundit on Lena Dunham

The good Professor's analysis is short:

Poor Lena. I think she hoped that, like a guy, she could parlay fame into sexual attractiveness. But that doesn’t work nearly as well for women, because men aren’t attracted to status to the degree that women are.

I suspect that one problem is, fame is not universal. If Lena Dunham were amazing at her job, she could be better admired. For example, I know about Leam Neeson. That guy is good. But all I know about Lena Dunham is that she impersonated Sarah Palin once. That's not very amazing. So, she may be famous among the Tumblr-and-pajamas set, but that's not enough to capture hearts outside of that demographic.

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August 07, 2016

ReLIFE, a prediction about memory

The previous speculative entry assumed without question the postulate that everyone in contact with the experiment subjects is going to forget them once the experiment is over. But actually, such outcome is impossible in the (known) world of ReLIFE, so it's not going to happen.

I say that because thus far, there was no ReLIFE technology shown that would affect people that are not a part of the experiment. So, there is no technical way to effect amnesia in a large number of unsuspecting people (unless we imagine something like a sleeping gas pumped into the whole school, at which point operatives of ReLIFE descend from black helicopters and administer memory-altering injections, LOL).

Instead, subjects are told that they are going to be forgotten, in order to control their behavior, even though they will not be. If they give themselves a moment to think, they can realize it too. All the necessary information is available in-world.

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July 24, 2016

ReLIFE, an easy solution

This is going to offer massive spoilers. Please make sure to read the manga before proceeding to tell me how wrong I am with the easy solution.

The main problem mangaka made characters to struggle with is as follows. Characters X and Y have secret identities X1 and Y1, for the period of the experiment. If they leak their identities, the experiment terminates in a failure, and everyone lose their memories of it. They also miss the success reward. But if they succeed in keeping the secret to the end, they capture the reward and keep the memories of the experiment (everyone else still lose theirs though). Seems simple enough, but the mangaka set it up so that X and Y would want to confirm their identities to each other. Is there way to do it without failing?

Note that it's completely all right for Y to know that X is X1. It's just not all right for X to leak X1 (however, if Y were to leak X1, it would be a failure too). So, a naive approach would be to X to march up to Y and say: "Please don't tell anyone, but actually I have a secret identity X1." That would be immediate failure, however, because both X and Y are under a blanket surveillance. They basically live in a fish tank. For that reason, I struggled for a while with a way to defeat the surveillance. If X were to send a steganographic message to Y, it would solve the problem. I went quite some ways down exploring this solution area, but it turned out to be too fragile. The risk of capture is too extreme.

But after exhausting the covert confirmation, I think I found an elegant solution. All X needs to do is to be patient until the end of the experiment, collect the reward, then re-establish contact with Y and confirm identities. The end of the experiment lifts the restrictions, does it not? The only issue here is that without the confirmation X1 and Y1 have trouble finding each other. But that is much easier to solve. X can tell Y: "I have a request for you. Do not ascent or reject, just register this: on date T1 in the future, come to the place L1. I'll be waiting." That is all.

BTW, it may be more practical and safer to put the request down in writing and arrange for Y to read it alone.

A request of this kind would be natural for X to make if they were innocent, so making it does not leak any information. Heck, X can confirm the legality of this move with the handlers beforehand. Looks like I solved it.

The remaining question is, if this is what the author is going to make X to do (or Y, they are symmetric). There may be another solution. An author has a unique command over the work. The author may yet arrange some kind of happenstance that allows a steganographic message to work, for example. Or the characters may fail. In Japan, there's no requirement for a happy ending. However, I think I have proven that at least one solution exists, and thus anything else would be lazy writing.

UPDATE: See also a prediction regarding the memory loss.

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June 26, 2016

#BrExit of 2016

The EU of 1942 looked remarkably similar to the EU of today in this old postcard.

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May 10, 2016

Albuquerque Auto Show 2016

I write about GT86 every year, but I just don't have an excuse to buy one. Also, while I can fit inside reasonably well, I still can't do heel-and-toe (I can in a Wrangler). By this point I pretty much resigned myself to the reality that I'll never drive one. However, my better half was rather interested in MX-5. The ND model is very, very nice. I am even tempted to name it a car of they show. If only it came with a hardtop.

What I may have an excuse to buy is a Grand Cherokee (WK2). It's quite interesting, subject to my research into its 4x4. Many versions of it come without a two-speed transfer case (MP 3022). If that's the case, then Overland only gets a total or 1:16.2 (with the 845RE transmission and 3.45 final drive). Aside from the model and capability confusion, it's a great city SUV, and has enough headroom.

The new Ridgeline seems like same old, same old, just refreshed. At least they promise a massive improvement in the fuel economy.

One other intresting thing I examined at last was Flex. Man this thing is rad. And the tow rating is phenomenal. Just one more great car that I'll never buy. Another such article at the show was the Mercedes minivan.

Lexus products are going through a phase when interiors are unpleasant and the infotaiment is worse. It's too bad, because our 2009 IS was outstanding and we considered getting another one.

Mercedes was all over the place. The CLA was just terrible. They parked it right next to a C-class, and it left a big impression. The cars were so much alike, it was creepy. But in the same time, it was immediately obvious which one was good and which one was bad. The difference was even more prononunced from the inside. Frankly I cannot understand who in their right mind would even buy the CLA. You have to be really desperate for the roundel to decide to save money this way.

Some auto pundits were saying how the CLA, by taking over the duties of a junk Merc... er... the entry-level model, relieves the C-class from that role and permits it to improve. That certainly happened. I remember how C-class lost badly to 3-series a couple of years ago in this show. Not anymore. Coincidentially, BMW skipped the show this year.

In place of BMW, we finally had Nissan show up, so I sat in the Z. What can I say, it's about as tight as MX-5, which is tighter than GT86. No-go. BTW, that center compartment is just goofy.

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May 05, 2016

What to expect from hyperinflation

Steven posted an essay on the topic of the unavoidable hyperinflation coming to the U.S., and I have little to disagree with his lead-in about the situation we're in. However, hyperinflation is not going to cause a societal collapse. Governments may fall, but they'll be replaced. There may be a civil war, but its sides will quickly organize. Look no further than the People's Republic of Donetsk that arose out from nothing in a month in 2014, and took over providing basic services - police, emergency medicine, even garbage disposal. Or what the heck, consider the Islamic State. In the U.S., we don't even need anything like that: every state in theory has a government that can take over on a short notice.

Now of course the above means that a government will preserve, old or new, but its subjects have no such guarantees. There's going to be a certain lawlessness for sure. I'm somewhat familiar with the "roaring 90s" in Russia that ended in the 1998 default. Based on that experience, I don't think stockpiling ammunition is the answer beyond basic 10,000 rounds or so, which you will need yourself. It's just not physically feasible: it's too bulky, too heavy. You need an easy access to good places to hide it, because houses are going to be broken in.

So, I have a different set of suggestions. First, move to a capital city. Citizens of it will have it easier than the rest, guaranteed. Yes, there will be lack of food and basic necessities, but worst comes to worst, the government will send foraging squads that will rob everyone else and bring the food into the city. Next, you have to be in the system somehow. Surviving on your own is pure fantasy, it's not possible when hordes of the hungry ransack your hiding place. People who think they can hide in a cabin delude themselves. You either need to work for a big corporation that is joined at the hip with the government, or work for the government itself. Being a LEO is not a bad lot, but a bureaucrat is okay too.

My grandmother survived The Siege of Leningrad by working for the police, NKVD. This is an interesting example, for those not familiar. People were dying left and right, yet there was no societal collapse. Okay, so the dead bodies were littering the streets, because nobody had calories left to dig graves, but only in the cold period. Government formed teams to collect bodies when it became warmer. When people resorted to cannibalism, the government found and caught them, then they were executed. The executioners then put their rifles on their shoulders and walked to their barraks, slowly, not wasting energy. Then some of them died. But the rest dragged the bodies into the frost in the winter, or into an open segment of the big grave trench, then went to get their orders to execute someone else.

My grandma wasn't executing anyone, just filing reports about executions, how much ammo was expended at executions, the available manpower for executions — basically the usual bureaucratic work. For that she was given her 250 grams of rye bread every day. That is how you survive, not by holing up in the woods with ammo and canned foods.

In our days, it wasn't even that dire. I even worked as a computer programmer, and was paid in U.S. dollars. There was a lot of crime. But a societal collapse? Hardly.

No matter where you look, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, people live through hyperinflation. There are lessons in that.

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April 24, 2016

A 250 mph wind burst at KAEG

Gotta save this here (h/t Rob Finfrock):

KAEG 240455Z AUTO 25004KT 10SM CLR 12/M04 A2992 RMK AO2 T01231042
KAEG 240435Z AUTO 25006KT 10SM CLR 14/M04 A2991 RMK AO2 T01361044
KAEG 240415Z AUTO 26012KT 10SM CLR 16/M05 A2991 RMK AO2 T01601047
KAEG 240347Z 250218KT 10SM SKC 17/M07 A2989
KAEG 240247Z 21022KT 10SM SKC 18/M07 A2987
KAEG 240147Z 23020G29KT 10SM FEW080 SCT100 21/M02 A2983 RMK VIRGA NE-E
KAEG 240047Z 23025KT 10SM FEW090 BKN120 24/M02 A2981 RMK VIRGA NE-E

As you can see, the afternoon convection goes away and gives way to a fine quiet night. But the last cell hits right at the location of the weather station and here's the result. Shit like this is why you don't fly near cells.

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March 15, 2016

Donald Trump as a beacon of hope for the whole world

Had an bizzare conversation with a friend from Belgium. He asked me to do everything in my power to make it so that Donald Trump wins elections and becomes the President. I had to ask a couple of questions about why he might want such an outcome. It turned out he's completely lost faith in the ability of his government to protect him from geopolitical risks, such as the massive invasion of Muslim "refugees", and started to believe that Trump would at least keep Europe from being destroyed, as Americans did in WWII, and Cold War. Sheer desperation, really.

One positive takeaway from this is, no matter how screwed up America has become — they have magazine capacity limits in Colorado now — someone has it worse. Like, for example, Europeans.

UPDATE: A strange new respect for Trump at Chizumatic.

UPDATE 2016-05-14: Now Roger L. Simon posts an article asking "Can Trump Save Mexico?" He is not as desperate as my Belgian friend, but:

The USA has for generations been the stopgap for this poverty, providing work for the Central American jobless, the millions of illegal aliens in our midst, who send remittances home from the storefronts we see across Los Angeles and other cities of our country. It's always been like that, with America, inadvertently or not, enabling this corrupt Mexican system, often for the advantage of America's corporations but not her people. I never thought it would be different.

Ironically, Donald Trump is Mexico's best friend right now, not of the officials, of course, or their extraordinarily large billionaire class, but of the Mexican people themselves. By actually bottling up the border and reducing the flow to legal immigration -- something that has not been done for decades, if ever -- Trump and his allies are forcing the Mexican government to deal with their own problems. That's not going to happen as long as El Norte is here to solve everything for them. It never happened while the border was open and will never happen until it's closed.

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February 22, 2016

2010 Jeep Wrangler long term

It has been more than 5 years since the day when I was driving by a dealership and thought: "today is a good day to buy a Jeep". It was the best car that I owned, by far.

The biggest thing I bought with it was the capability. It's drive anywhere in comfort. Not the comfort as isolation from road imperfections or noise: it is a real jeep with all the discomforts that implies. But it's a comfort of driving. With RAV4 I could get wherever I need to get, or nearly. Jeepers in my club were often surprised. But it took a continuous, grueling effort: watching your track at all times on the trail, plan every move ahead to put the wheels just right. It was exhausting. But the Rubicon just rolls over everything. So easy.

Aside from the big advantage of the capability, one minor thing that I learned to appreciate with the jeep is driving a convertible. Never been a fan of that previously: it's noisy and dusty. Really not a thing to do in town. But out in the desert it feels proper. Wrangler is designed with no regard for the ease of access to the back with the top on (it's a big reason why 4-door versions are so popular).

However, I had trouble fitting in. At my height, the roll bar intruded into the area where my head needed to be. If I were to be rear-ended, I would crack my skull upon the cage. So, I reworked the seat brackets to lower the driver seat. It was the biggest mod I did to the jeep, it even required cutting and welding. Other mods were fairly minor: things like a CB antenna and rails.

Initially I was apprehensive about reliability. And I even had a transmission leak. But the leak was fixed under warranty and the jeep was trouble-free since then. It's at 85k miles now.

BTW, it gets about 19 mpg in daily driving.

The only weak spot in the jeep is its lack of sportiness. It squats and sways too much, and rather slowly too. It's just not chuckable, even with traction control off. But that comes with the territory.

Pictured: Jeep at the Imogene pass, Colorado.

UPDATE: A few small good things:

  • Pulling on a door handle of a locked door unlocks it. I'm not a fan of the design where occupands must unlock doors for handles to work. Scion xB was like that (in both generations) and it made me mad.
  • Fog lights can be turned on in conjunction with parking lights only. On RAV4.3, headlights had to be on for fog lights, which pretty much defeated the purpose of the fog lights. Useful fog lights are designed to illuminate the road, but not the fog. If normal headlights are on, their light is reflected by the fog and obscures the road.
  • Although headlights were often panned as dim, their plastic is tough and does not go yellow with age.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 10:55 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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February 15, 2016

Our surprisingly benevolent Chinese lords and masters

A typical scare piece was linked by Instapundit today, which makes the following assertion:

When China enters a market, the intention is to destroy indigenous competition. From American to Nigerian to Turkish textile jobs — all down 90 percent — local earning power is destroyed. Everywhere and in every area — again it’s steel, aluminum, solar panels, toys and electronics — China hollows out local production.

There was a time when I could take this sort of breathless propaganda seriously, but something happened recently: Mooney rolled out the M20V Ultra.

For those not in the know, Chinese were gobbing up the basement of the aviation industry in the U.S. for many years now, and they are quite brazen about it. One historic anecdote is that when they bought Cirrus and sent the occupation team in, workers put up a big banner "Welcome Our Chinese Partners!" The Chinese were outraged. We are OWNERS not partners, they said, and ordered the banner taken down immediately.

The Chinese purchase of Mooney was met with a large skepticism. Everyone knew that Mooney was done, over, finished. The product was too old, too expensive to make. The notional purchaser, Mr. Chen, was secretive about the source of his money. Everyone in the industry thought he was either clueless or a scammer. Then, the company rolled out the model M10 - a revolutionary airplane for them, but made in California, not Texas, and revealed in Zhuhai, China. Ah-ha, cried the skeptics. Now we know - Chen wants to take the American expertize and build airplanes in China! Well, 2016 comes in and Mooney in Texas announce a major renovation to the factory, a major advance for the M20 line with the M20V Ultra. It was not just the new door and the composite shell, but also the new electrics and electronics that comprise a large part of the cost.

In other words, a Chinese overlord rescued a storied American company that American investors bailed upon, made it make new and exciting products that are world class again. In addition, the new composite production in California helps along the traditional manufacturing in Texas. This was not what the narrative taught us.

Meanwhile in Minnesota and South Dakota they are getting ready to the imminent certification of Cirrus SF50 - an amazing personal jet, the likes of which the world has not seen. If that's what slaving under the yoke of Chinese is like, perhaps it's not that bad. I've seen worse coming from New York schuisters when they took over companies.

All that is quite far from "hollowing local production". Now, granted, the new Chinese owners may be incompetent; the investments are risky. Mooney, Cirrus, Teledyne/Continental, and any number of their other aviation ventures in the U.S. may yet fail — they have failed already on their own once or more. But at least we'll get a Mooney with the pilot's door, which is a net positive in my book.

UPDATE: First flight on June 6, 2016, by the Ovation Ultra version with Mike Miles at the controls.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 06:17 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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